DALLAS – The Phoenix Suns go around the NBA with a blemish on the face of their franchise that is embarrassing – defense.
On the most important day of their season, it never looked worse.
The Suns essentially trashed their playoff chances Sunday, giving up an 81-point first half en route to a 140-116 loss to the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center.
With five games remaining, the next win by Dallas (46-31) or loss by Phoenix (42-35) would eliminate the Suns from playoff contention. Had Phoenix won, it would have trailed Dallas by two games.
“Not in a million years would I have thought we’d come out and play that way in a game of that significance,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said after Dallas recorded its highest regulation point total in the past 17 years.
The Suns showed up. They led 22-19 and trailed 46-45 with 7:30 go in the second quarter. But the real Suns – the ones who have been bad defensively, on the road and against good teams this season – then appeared.
The Suns are 2-17 this season on the road against current winning teams.
The Suns’ ninth loss in their past 10 games came because Phoenix could not stop Dallas when Dirk Nowitzki was sitting on the bench. The Mavericks led 46-45 but went on a 24-3 run, with all but four of the points coming while Nowitzki was out.
“We weren’t ourselves,” Suns guard Steve Nash said. “Disappointing season, but obviously a very embarrassing and disappointing loss . . . They had an incredible night shooting the ball, and we got progressively worse. Put us out of our misery.”
Dallas’ Jason Kidd had 19 points, a season-high 20 assists – all in just three quarters.
Around the league
Cavaliers 101, Spurs 81: At Cleveland, LeBron James scored 38 points, Mo Williams and Delonte West added 22 apiece and the NBA’s best home team avoided its first three-game losing streak.
Pistons 104, Bobcats 97: At Auburn Hills, Mich., ex-Arizona Wildcat Will Bynum scored a franchise-record 26 points in the fourth quarter to lead Detroit past the Bobcats and putting the Pistons a step closer to locking up the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Knicks 112, Raptors 103: At Toronto, Wilson Chandler scored 17 points, David Lee added 16 points and 10 rebounds and the Knicks beat the Raptors, eliminating Toronto from the playoffs.
Jazz 108, Hornets 94: At New Orleans, Ronnie Brewer scored 23 points and Utah clinched a playoff spot after completing a convincing season sweep of the Hornets.
Nuggets 110, Timberwolves 87: At Minneapolis, Carmelo Anthony scored 23 points and Denver won its seventh in a row.
Rockets 102, Trail Blazers 88: At Houston, Yao Ming had 21 points and 12 rebounds to lead Houston past Portland, just hours after the Trail Blazers got their first playoff berth since 2003 when Dallas beat Phoenix.
Nets 96, 76ers 67: At East Rutherford, N.J., Vince Carter scored 15 points and the New Jersey Nets kept their playoff hopes alive for a couple more days by handing the 76ers their worst loss of the season.
Pacers 117, Thunder 99: At Oklahoma City, Danny Granger scored 24 points, Troy Murphy added 22 points and nine rebounds, and the Pacers kept their slim playoff hopes alive.
Warriors 105, Kings 100: At Sacramento, Calif., Kelenna Azubuike had 30 points and a career-high 15 rebounds, and the Warriors hung on to win with just seven healthy players.
Lakers 88, Clippers 85: At Los Angeles, Lamar Odom had 18 points and 10 rebounds, Kobe Bryant added 18 points and the Lakers edged the Clippers to remain a game behind Cleveland for the NBA’s best record.
The Associated Press